Syncing… Subject, Media, Society
25th Annual Interdisciplinary German Studies Conference
University of California, Berkeley
February 24th and 25th, 2017
“Not all people exist in the same Now,” claimed Ernst Bloch in his seminal 1932 book Erbschaft dieser Zeit (“Heritage of Our Times”). The rhythms of modernity had fractured society into isolated temporal worlds. While individuals occupied the same space, he argued, they lived ungleichzeitig– out of sync. Synchronism speaks to a temporal relation, a shared rhythm, or attunement between subjects, media, and societies. More so than simultaneity or contemporaneity, synchronism holds the promise of a collapse of separation, a coming together of disparate objects or states of being. Yet the promise of synchronism is also an aporia, always pregnant with the threat of its own negation or of stagnant homogeneity.
Bloch’s meditations on synchronism have clear predecessors in German thought, including Siegfried Kracauer, for whom the synchronized bodies of the Tiller Girls came to represent dis-individuation and alienation under modern capitalism, and Nietzsche, who held the untimely to be a necessary condition of critique. But investment in questions of synchronism is not limited to late modernity, as demonstrated by medieval books of hours, early modern calendar reform, and Leibniz’s inquiry into the place of the human in the flow of God’s eternal time.
Synchronism emerges (or does not) at points of contact: at the threshold or the border and in networks of communication and exchange. Accordingly, investigations of synchronism and processes of synchronization gain all the more urgency in our Now: a hyper-networked society shifting simultaneously backwards and forwards, polarizing on concepts of nation, citizenship and freedom – on what it means to be in sync with our time.
Questions arise: How might we relate the syncing of human and nonhuman actors with synchronization between human subjects and societies at large? Could the aesthetic synchronism of Olympic diving or the flow of video game play offer insight into social synchronization? What is the impact of nonsynchronism in speech and gesture on language evolution? When does being in sync with the mass mean a loss of individuality and when does it create novel conditions for community-building and political change?
******************* The German Studies Call for Papers List Editor: Sean Franzel Assistant Editor: Olaf Schmidt Sponsored by the University of Missouri Info available at: http://grs.missouri.edu/resources/gerlistserv.html